Consultant considered, 'poor record' ignored | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 07, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 07, 2010

Recommendations for Coal Mining

Consultant considered, 'poor record' ignored

In a tender to study the country's coal sector, the Hydrocarbon Unit of power, energy and mineral resources ministry has short-listed a British consultant ignoring the company's past 'poor performance' in the Barapukuria coal mine.
Under a one-million-dollar financing from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Hydrocarbon Unit floated a tender to hire a consultant who would study the coal mining sector and give a set of recommendations on how the country's coal sector should be developed, the ministry sources said.
According to the unit's Project Director engineer Anwar H Khan, the selected consultant would ultimately suggest suitable mining method and procedures, environment model for mining and review existing mining proposals.
Five consultant firms have been short-listed by the unit back in October for this job. They are: IMC Group Consultant Ltd (IMCL) of the UK, Pegasus International of Malaysia, Pricewaterhouse Coopers of India, e.Gen Consultants of Bangladesh-UK and Norwest Corporation of the US.
But the selection of British consultant named IMCL creates a conflict of interest as the company is already working as a supervisory consultant for the underground mine of Barapukuria Coal Mining Company -- a subsidiary of Petrobangla, alleged one of the short- listed bidders.
The short-listed consultant named e.Gen has lodged a complaint in this regard in November asking how it would be able to provide “independent and fair opinion” on mining method proposals since IMCL was already involved with Barapukuria mine.
The unit's tender document stated that the consulting firms would not be hired for any assignment that, by its nature, may be in conflict with another assignment of the firm.
The e.Gen in its complaint argued that IMCL is responsible for the supervision of production planning, operation and safety of underground works carried out by the Chinese contractor of Barapukuria. Therefore, the company (IMCL) is not in a position to give any opinion that may end up putting at risk its own credentials or technical competency in the Barapukuria project.
Sources said the Barapukuria mine's development generated a lot of controversies and questions were raised against the quality of IMCL's supervision.
As the consultant of the mining project, the IMCL's job is to supervise the works of the mine's Chinese contractor and report to the government.
The mine was supposed to launch operation in 2000 and designed to produce 60 million tonnes of coal over a period of 30 years.
But because of poor mine designs of the Chinese developer, the mine's production target has come down to 30 million tonnes while the cost of the mine's development had doubled.
The mine launched commercial operation practically in 2005. It incurred huge losses in the first three years, but made its first operating profit in 2008-09 due to high sale price of coal.
A Barapukuria coal mine company source said most of the problems with the Barapukuria mine were created due to contractual flaws, poor works done by the Chinese developer and slow response from the Bangladeshi counterparts in dealing with various problems.
But the IMCL too has an important role in clearing mining design and project implementation, said the source adding the company did not perform this job properly till the recent years.
However, talking to The Daily Star Hydrocarbon Unit project director said the short-listing of the qualified consultants was being done in consultation with the ADB. If there was a conflict of interest, the ADB could detect it.
He said, since IMCL had the experience of working in Bangladesh, it had a competitive edge. He does not see any conflict of interest in short-listing IMCL in the tender.
But another official says, as the Hydrocarbon Unit's tender deals with studying the coal deposits of the country and recommend mining methods, IMCL's current job with the Barapukuria mine did present a conflict of interest.
“As Barapukuria mine's serving consultant, will the IMCL be able to speak negative about the mine's operation, design or methods?” he asks.
The tender evaluation process will be completed within a short time. Once awarded with the job, the consultant will have around 18 months to complete the study.

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